Volume 17 • Issue 31 | Dec. 24 - 30, 2004

Developer trying to raise Tribeca towers’ height

By Ronda Kaysen

Developer Edward Minskoff is looking to increase the size of the apartment buildings he hopes to build across from P.S. 234 in Tribeca.

Minskoff, the developer of Site 5B, has requested to make several amendments to a September agreement with the city regarding the site, including a request to increase the street wall along Warren St., opposite P.S. 234, to 135 feet.

In the September agreement, signed by City Councilmember Alan Gerson and Deputy Mayor Daniel Doctoroff, Site 5B would have buildings of 370, 200 and 135 feet, with the larger two on West St. The street wall along West St. is currently limited to 70 ft., with a provision to allow for an increase to as much as 135 ft., dependent upon Community Board 1 approval. In exchange for a street wall height increase, a portion of the additional proceeds from the sale would go to the slated community center at site 5C, another property in the agreement. Minskoff also wants to increase the size of the tallest tower to 382 feet.

“The P.T.A. has a concern that if [the street wall] gets adjusted to the 135 ft. height, it could affect the school,” said George Olsen, a C.B. 1 member and former head of the P.S. 234 P.T.A. “The school is 65 ft. high. You’d have a building directly across the street that’s twice as high.” Although Site 5C also faces the school — on West St. — it would not cause as much of a disruption to light because the school’s classrooms and playground face out onto Warren St., Olsen said.

Minskoff’s request is far from a sealed deal, according to Gerson. “We’ll see if there’s a common ground or not and if not, then they [Minskoff] have to remain where they are,” said Gerson, who received a letter from Doctoroff outlining the proposed changes. “The agreement affectively locks it in at 70 feet unless the community board O.K.’s any increase, and I am quite confident they will not allow for it unless the parents are satisfied.”

Furthermore, any street wall increase requires a shadow study for light lost to the playground, said Robin Forst, Gerson’s deputy chief of staff.

Minskoff may have a difficult road ahead. “The parents I’ve spoken to are pretty concerned about it,” said Kevin Fisher, chairperson of P.S. 234’s P.T.A. “There may be tradeoffs, and the parent body might want to accept some of those tradeoffs, but right now it doesn’t seem worth it. We’re going to be hedged in by two buildings.”

Despite some parent grumbling, Madelyn Wils, chairperson of C.B. 1, was not as concerned about the changes. A 65-foot height increase is a far cry from the 600-foot tall building originally proposed, and the shadow it would have created at P.S. 234 and Washington Market Park, said Wils, who leads the board that will have to approve Minskoff’s proposal. “One hundred thirty-five feet isn’t tall, it’s not going to obstruct the light,” she told Downtown Express. “This is reasonable.”

The added height could be a boon for the community center, which will benefit financially from a concession and is still “millions of dollars away” from its financial goal, according to Bob Townley, executive director of Manhattan Youth, which will occupy the community center. A few extra feet, said Townley, may be worth consideration. “Tall things don’t necessarily bother me, what bothers me is kids that don’t get an education and don’t get after school activities,” he said.

Nevertheless, Townley, a C.B. 1 member for close to 22 years, had not yet read the agreement and was reluctant to take a position about it. “I stand by the will of the community on this,” he said. “If it’s a nice offer, I’m sure that the community board will be reasonable about it.”

The other proposed changes to the Site 5B agreement request to extend the base along the site from 44 ft. to 46 ft.; decrease the height of the tower at the corner of Murray and Greenwich St. from 200 ft. to 139 ft.; decrease the street wall along Greenwich St. from 135 ft. to 102 ft.; as well as the increase of the tower itself, from 370 ft. to 382 ft.

Minskoff has not yet submitted his plans to the Department of City Planning to begin the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure. A public scoping session for the Environmental Impact Statement is planned for Jan. 6. Minskoff’s assistant said her boss was on vacation and the developer did not respond to a request for comment.

With reporting by Divya Watal

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